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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Students' conceptual understanding of calculus Gooya, Zahra


The purpose of this study was to identify the nature of students' conceptual understanding of two concepts of calculus namely, derivative and function. As a way of collecting data two methods were employed: (a) modification of Piagetean clinical interview; and, (b) tutorial sessions. Whenever the students seemed to be confused about the issues being discussed, the researcher provided instructions through the tutorial sessions. The analysis of data was done by developing individual profiles and by response categories. It was found that the interview methodology was effective in revealing some aspects of students' concept images. The students were found to have little meaningful understanding of derivative. A number of students held proper concept images of function which should lead to the development of an appropriate concept definition. It was also evident from the study that students had adequate skill in using algorithm to solve problems. The results of the study would be useful to the instructors of calculus. It was suggested that introducing a concept by its formal definition would contribute to students' confusions and difficulties. Yet if a concept is presented by means of meaningful examples, students had better opportunity to develop their concept images. Thus leading them to form concept definitions. The researcher strongly recommended that more challenging exercises be posed to the students in problem-solving situations.

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